04/14 – Four Dead in Five Seconds

Downtown El Paso in the 1880s. During the “Wild West” period, El Paso was one of the most violent towns in the region. (Pinterest)

On this day in 1881, the Four Dead in Five Seconds gunfight took place in El Paso, Texas. Earlier in the day, two cattle rustlers (thieves) under the employ of John Hale – a notorious local criminal – had been tried and found guilty of murdering two Mexican cowboys. Unhappy with the result of the trial, Hale and a friend – former Marshal George Campbell – followed courthouse translator Marshal Krempkau out into the street, shouting obscenities. As the men quarrelled, newly-arrived Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire was enjoying a bowl of soup at a saloon across from the courthouse. The new Marshal was a Civil War veteran, and prior Texas Ranger; standing 6 feet 4 inches tall and full of bullets from previous battles, Stoudenmire was a renowned gunfighter. A shot rang out: Hale had fired at Krempkau, hitting the Marshal in the stomach. Stoudenmire set down his cutlery and ran out into the street, drawing his dual .44 calibre 1860 Colt Army Revolvers.

Dallas Stoudenmire in a picture taken in the early 1880s. (Pinterest)

Emerging from the saloon, Stoudenmire reacted quickly and fired a (mistaken) shot at Ochoa, an innocent bystander. As Hale peeked out from behind a courthouse pillar, Stoudenmire turned and shot him between the eyes. Hale crumpled to the ground, and Krempkau – nearly delirious from blood loss – fired two shots at Campbell. The first round struck Campbell in the hand, sending his revolver flying; as he grabbed it up off the ground, Stoudenmire fired a round into his stomach. Campbell fell, exclaiming “You big son of a bitch! You murdered me!“. The entire engagement had lasted five seconds, and four men lay dead or dying in the street.

Although Stoudenmire was later killed by an associate of Hale’s, he succeeded in fighting off a number of would-be assassins – including one whose testicles were shot clean off – and successfully pacified El Paso, one of the most violent towns of the American Wild West period.

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